Five years ago, Street Roots set several goals to support a broader social justice agenda in Portland.
Our No. 1 goal was to go to a weekly publication. By doing so, we wanted to give vendors a more stable income week-in and week- out. We also wanted to expand our in-depth social justice reporting and give readers a more timely publication.
Our second goal was to increase our effectiveness when it came to advocating for the creation of more affordable housing in our community.
It’s been nearly two years since Street Roots launched a weekly publication schedule, and the results have been fantastic. Newspaper sales for vendors selling the newspaper have increased by more than 60 percent, giving vendors more access to income. The results have allowed many of our vendors the opportunity to both prevent and end their homelessness. We’ve expanded our reach in the community by partnering with more businesses giving vendors more sales locations than ever before. Today, we have around 90 sales locations throughout the Portland region. Most readers know selling Street Roots isn’t just about the money for vendors. It’s also about building authentic relationships.
“As opposed to when I was homeless, Street Roots allows me to act like the guy I want to be,” said Raymond Thornton, who sells the newspaper at Northeast 15th Avenue and Broadway. “I’m able to utilize more resources, and I’ve got an idea of what I’m going to be doing tomorrow.”
Many readers have their favorite sales locations, and maintaining a relationship with both vendors and the newspaper itself is built into the fabric of their lives. It’s a win-win for both the vendors working to end their homelessness and the readers seeking original news and voices from the larger community.
The newspaper itself, under the leadership of Managing Editor Joanne Zuhl and reporter Emily Green, is maintaining some of the most thought-provoking and original content around. From our institutional knowledge of poverty to our growing coverage of the environment, criminal justice and immigrant issues, it’s not a stretch to say that, pound for pound, Street Roots is one of the best media outlets in the state right now.
Two years ago, Street Roots also worked hard with partners to create the Welcome Home Coalition. The coalition would go from five organizations to more than 140 organizations in two short years. Under the leadership of Director Jes Larson, the Welcome Home Coalition would go on to help secure important funding opportunities for people experiencing homelessness in Portland, including helping pass a short-term rental tax and the recent housing bond. Street Roots played an important role in building the organization’s infrastructure and continues to play a leading role in the coalition. The work to identify important resources for homeless services and affordable housing will continue.
At Street Roots, we continue to evolve. Currently, Street Roots is focusing its efforts on maintaining a quality weekly publication and providing more resources to the men and women selling the newspaper.
Given the current political climate, the work of Street Roots is more important than ever.
“Street Roots is a journalistic gem. I feel lucky to have access to such high-caliber investigative reporting with a strong community conscience,” said David Rogers, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Combine the newspaper with Street Roots’ tremendous community organizing presence, and the result is an irreplaceable social change resource.”
The cover of the Dec. 16-22, 2016, issue of Street Roots says it all. Portlandia stands alongside others in the community with an issue of Street Roots, stating, “We stand with you.”
Ultimately, the success of Street Roots is about you. Each time you purchase a Street Roots from a neighborhood vendor, you’re giving an individual the opportunity to maintain both dignity and an income.
Your support of the organization also matters. Each time you give to Street Roots, you’re helping make the foundation of the organization stronger. A one-time donation at the Give!Guide or monthly donation to Street Roots goes directly to giving vendors a hand up and producing the newspaper.
In the Dec. 16-22 edition of Street Roots, there is a donor envelope. We encourage each of you to consider giving this holiday season. Street Roots is supported by donors who give small and large contributions, one newspaper and one donation at a time.
Thank you for your readership and your consideration. It takes a village, and we are stronger together.
Israel Bayer is the executive director of Street Roots. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @israelbayer.